Non Abrahmic religions like Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism & Sikhism believe in Karma theory & rebirth.

I'm interested in knowing the proofs of Karma theory & rebirth presented by Buddhism.

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    Why downvote??? There were no evil intentions behind asking.
    – user10804
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 17:05
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    I see this is a nice question seeking knowledge asked from student aspiring for deliverance of living in a conditioned world. +1. My advice to the questioner is, this is a public forum knowledge/opinion should be taken with discern, these answers represented some of the schools' teachings. These schools are, such as Mahayana (teachings recorded in the Chinese Classical Sutras and very rarely trending in English Buddhist communities), Vajrayana (Tibetan), or, modern Theravada (based on the Pali Canon). Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 17:25
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    There is no evidence the questioner is not aspiring for deliverance of living in a conditioned world. If the questioner was aspiring for deliverance from the conditioned world; they would have asked another type of question. Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 23:51
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    @Dhammadhatu we can deliver to the world if we can give proofs of Karma theory.
    – user10804
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 3:29
  • In my opinion, Abrahamic religions also teach reincarnation, in that they teach that a permanent essence migrates to a different vessel/body (i.e. "heavenly body") upon the death of one body.
    – Zefareu
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 15:52

6 Answers 6


Buddhism differs from others in that rebirth is not a transmigration of a Soul, nor of any specific entity. It is more of a statement that perceived experience being subject to conditions - finding itself empty of any and all self referential properties - cannot logically be seen to either have a concrete beginning nor a concrete ending, whilst the conditions for the arising of said experience are present.

When the notion of an Essential, Independent and Unchanging Atman/Soul is taken at its word, then at birth and death, that Soul must either appear from somewhere, or disappear somewhere, respectively, as Essentialist religions infer.

The Buddha's aim was to show that what is directly perceived - impermanence and non-self - does not allow for termination of the conditioned (as that would be a process with a permanent conclusion), nor does it allow for some unconditioned and unexperiancable entity flirting off to invade somewhere else, as that is not directly perceivable by entities that depend on conditions for their perception..

The point is that there is no duality of 'cessation of the conditional'+'non-cessation of the non-conditional'. There is simply the continuation of conditionality. Ending the process of rebirth is the act of removing whatever conditions make up the necessary support for some conditionally-defined object: there is no 'rebirth' for my desire to drink, because I have removed the necessary conditions for this conditioned entity called 'me' to lunge for booze - the condition removed is craving for beer. This craving is removed volitionaly - volition being the arbiter of Kamma and its fruit: empty of volition? Empty of Kamma and hence empty of rebirth.

(I will be the first to say that this logic works a lot easier for 'beer' than for the entity labeled 'me'. But there is no concrete dividing line between the two concepts - as for any two concepts - given that true Independence is not possible within conditionality, so the beer example should be a decent starting point!)

  • Can you suggest me Sutta to understand this concept better?
    – user10804
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 14:18
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    Personally I would say that in order to start thinking about rebirth, as within the Pali Canon, one must have a very good grasp of anicca and anatta, as the theory of rebirth deals with a conditioned process. MN109, especially the last quandry: "So — form is non-self, feeling is non-self, perception is non-self, fabrications are non-self, consciousness is non-self. Then what self will be touched by the actions done by what is non-self?", as thought by a monk - is often how people attempt to tackle rebirth imo.. "If no permanent self is directly perceivable, then what gets reborn?" Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 13:58
  • But I don't think the Buddha would have framed rebirth solely on non-self (and certainly not 'self', as the above questions do to a degree), but on non-self and impermanence together. accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/wheel248.html#great I would read to get to some of the more intricate points the Buddha made on Kamma. Insight into rebirth is left within the canon for very advanced meditators (which to outsiders can sound like needing a theta level 12 or whatnot in scientology), but if you first focus on understanding anicca, anatta and kamma, rebirth should be less awkward! Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 14:04
  • I'm not one of those super meditators btw, my post is really more my current understanding of rebirth.. I mainly put rebirth aside when I found the suttas - at least until the core insights mentioned above were relatively well understood. (it's either one of the more advanced insights of the Buddha, or a later corruption of the texts - deciding either way, for yourself, requires a good base understanding of the whole message!) Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 14:10
  • Okay thanks. I've searched online. It is being a matter of debate whether not self is egolessness ( no identification ) or devoid of self. Both versions have their own explanations, even Gautam Buddha didn't say clearly - he said both extremes are hurdles...
    – user10804
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 3:27

There are many, especially in the western world, who’d rather have Buddhism without rebirth because they do not believe in rebirth. They are turned off by the concept of rebirth because most major religions are based on three levels of existence: This life, and one of two eternal stages of life thereafter. It is either heaven or hell for eternity based on what one does in this life. Also they just cannot fathom the possibility of being reborn as an animal

The concept of rebirth is a paradigm-changing concept, and one needs to put aside all preconceived notions to understand this core message. The reason rebirth is a core message is that this life is only but an insignificant time in the cycle of rebirths that we have been on from eternity.

The sense of urgency to follow diligently in this Dhamma Path comes when one realizes suffering in many of the lower realms of existence is much worse than that in the human or even the animal realm. When one gets more and more into Dhamma, one realizes that rebirth is an inseparable part of being a Buddhist in the truest sense.

The Pali word for Buddhist means “a person trying the stop the rebirth process” (“Bhava+uddha” = Bhauddha). One meaning of Buddha Dhamma is “path or method of removing bhava and thus stopping the rebirth process”. Buddha means, “one who has removed bhava (and attained Nibbana)”.

For evidence of Rebirth one can refer to the research done by the late Professor Ian Stevenson at the University of Virginia. He has done over 20 years of research on the authenticity of rebirth accounts. Also refer to Professor Jim Tucker’s books about rebirth. A good book is “Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation” by Ian Stevenson.

There are hundreds of youtube videos on rebirth stories and also many on child prodigies and hypnosis-based curing of certain ailments.

We can see various levels of human happiness/suffering around us. We see some people live with relatively higher levels of health, wealth, and happiness, while others live in poverty, ill-health, and misery. This in itself is proof of Kamma.

A child may die prematurely, or someone may get brutally murdered. What could be the underlying causes for such misfortune. Nothing happens in this world without a reason or without a cause.

Does it just happens that X is born healthy and wealthy, Y is born healthy but poor, and Z is born handicapped and poor? There must be REASONS why X, Y, and Z are born that way. Many times a person born rich can become poor, and vice versa. Or a person in good health can die suddenly in an accident or by a heart attack. The laws of kammā can explain all the above.

  • +1. "... they just cannot fathom the possibility of being reborn as an animal..." insightful and true. whilst Stevenson or Tucker's understanding is not the Buddha's so the Buddhist in exact, just a progress or hint. "The laws of kammā can explain all the above" is a bit abrupt, many factors are playing, its easy to be misinterpreted as a declaration of fatalism. Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 13:51

Non Abrahmic religions like Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism & Sikhism believe in Karma theory & rebirth.

See my answer here. It explains how Buddhism is a practical religion and not based on blind belief.

I'm interested in knowing the proofs of Karma theory & rebirth presented by Buddhism.

The only proof obtainable is by practicing insight meditation thereby seeing with your own eyes how phenomena arise and cease and how they can cause new phenomena to arise.

  • "how Buddhism is a practical religion and not based on blind belief." - I didn't ask that. You got aversion when you saw names of other religions. Kashmiri Shaivism which I follow too have practical techniques & so other Indian schools like Sankhya, Advait Vedanta Etc. Rituals are not blind beliefs, just that can't be proved... "The only proof obtainable is by practicing insight meditation thereby seeing with your own eyes how phenomena arise and cease and how they can cause new phenomena to arise."- it doesn't prove rebirth & complexity of Karma theory, although gives hint to cause - effect.
    – user10804
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 16:01
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    @Aghori. The workings of Kamma is one of the Four Imponderables. The Buddha taught that one should not think about these things as they will only agitate the mind. Only a fully enlightened Buddha can understand Kamma.
    – user2424
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 17:03

Non Abrahmic religions like Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism & Sikhism believe in Karma theory & rebirth.

Rebirth is not the same as reincarnation. Reincarnation refers to the belief that a soul at the termination of life enters a new physical body. Jainism, Hinduism & Sikhism may believe in reincarnation where as original Buddhism (before the later day variations) believes in rebirth.

I'm interested in knowing the proofs of Karma theory & rebirth presented by Buddhism.

In Buddhism, kamma & rebirth is a doctrine of moral efficiency. The teachings state:

And what is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions?

There are fruits & results of good & bad actions (kamma). There is this world & the other worlds. There are spontaneously reborn beings [due to actions/kamma]...

MN 117

For example, a free man robs a bank, is caught & is reborn as a prisoner is a prison. This is the proof of kamma & rebirth, where the free man later takes spontaneous (immediate) rebirth as a prisoner & treated like an animal in a zoo.

Or a normal person takes drugs & becomes a drug addict & then a thief or prostitute. Here, the humane being is reborn in a ghost & animal birth. They are reborn as a ghost because they always must search for drugs, never content, & they are reborn as an animal because they must always perform bestial depraved acts to obtain money for drugs. This is the proof of kamma & rebirth.

Buddhism teaches at least five destinations of rebirth due to kamma (motive & action), namely, humane (sane), godly (exalted), ghost (addiction), animal (lack of self-control) and hell (suffering), as follows:

Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech & mind.

Sense contact is the cause by which kamma comes into play.

And what is the diversity in kamma? There is kamma to be experienced in hell, kamma to be experienced in the realm of common animals, kamma to be experienced in the realm of the hungry shades, kamma to be experienced in the humane world, kamma to be experienced in the world of the gods. This is called the diversity in kamma.

AN 6.63

In Budddhism, the word 'birth' ('jati') refers to 'production' ('abhinibbatti') of the idea or view of a 'person' ('puriso'), 'self' ('atta') or 'being' ('satta'). 'Re-birth' is the continued production of these ideas or views of 'self', 'persons' or 'beings', which generally occurs due to 'kamma' ('motive & action').

For example, kamma is made to successfully make money. Here, the mind is 'reborn' as a 'god', thinking: "I am rich; I am successful; I am special; I am upper class".

Then later, there is a collapse in the stock market & loss of wealth. The same person in reborn in hell (suffering), thinking: "I am poor; I am a failure; why didn't I do this; why didn't I do that!".

Each thought of "I am" is a "birth' ("jati"), created by the craving & motive that drives kamma (intentional actions).

This is kamma & rebirth. People are reborn into different mental states of self-identification due to their kamma (motives & actions). They are reborn as rich, poor, husband, wife, divorcee, widow, etc, due to their kamma that leads to self-identifying. The teachings say:

The craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving to be, craving not-to-be: This, friend Visakha, is the origination of self-identification described by the Blessed One.

MN 44

Each act of 'self-identification' is a 'birth' or 'rebirth' & each 'birth' will bring suffering. In his first words, the Buddha said:

153. Through many a birth in samsara have I wandered in vain, seeking the builder of this house. Repeated birth is indeed suffering!

154. O house-builder, you are seen! You will not build this house again. For your rafters are broken and your ridgepole shattered. My mind has reached the Unconditioned; I have attained the destruction of craving


  • You're saying there is no physical body after death? Only 1 life.
    – user10804
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 20:18
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    I am not sure that your question about biology is relevant. The Alagaddupama Sutta states: "Bhikkhus, both formerly and now what I teach is suffering and the cessation of suffering." In original Buddhism, the word "death" ("marana") means the idea or view that a "self-identity" has died, which is suffering. The termination of life without any self-identification is not suffering. To quote the Dhammapada: "21. Heedfulness is the path to the Deathless. Heedlessness is the path to death. The heedful die not. The heedless are as if dead already." Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 23:42
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    To quote again from Dhātuvibhaṅga Sutta: "Bhikkhu, ‘I am’ is a conceiving; ‘I am this’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall not be’ is a conceiving. Conceiving is a disease, conceiving is a tumour, conceiving is a dart. By overcoming all conceivings, bhikkhu, one is called a sage at peace. And the sage at peace is not born, does not age, does not die; he is not shaken and does not yearn." suttacentral.net/en/mn140 Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 23:49
  • @Aghori What body? What "after"? What death? Death is all the time. Where does one's body begin and end? Wouldn't any answer be an assumption based on past experience? What past experience?
    – Lowbrow
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 6:11
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    Your questions here have no relevance to real Buddhism. Real Buddhism is about ending suffering. The kamma & rebirth teachings are peripheral (additional) to real Buddhism. Buddha taught such things to the ignorant people in the villages so they would not harm themselves & others. These teachings are no different to Christianity or Islam teaching about heaven & hell. As I explained, "death" is an idea created by the mind. When the mind is empty, it will understand "death" is only a thought; nothing more. Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 6:32

While this answer might be controversial on this site I myself have struggled with this question for a long time. This is my perspective, nothing more.

The answer is no, currently, there is not a proof of karma or reincarnation that I have found to be convincing.

However, the inverse is also true... there is not a proof that eliminates the possibility of karma or reincarnation that I have found to be convincing.

The conclusion I came to was that the timetables involved of lifetimes of rebirth made it impossible to set up an experiment that proved the issue one way or another. Believe me, I tried, for ~3 years I made myself the experiment. It was an existential adventure I do not regret.

Now it is said that some people after a certain point in the path remember all their past lives, and to them, that would be a personal proof. But to me it is anecdotal, and I could not accept it as proof unless I myself experienced it. Even if I experienced it myself, I would not consider it a proof for other people for the same reasons.


I feel as if there are some huge misconceptions regarding "karma" as described in the west. So many consider it like a kind of moral retribution and never recognize its true essence. Karma is momentum.

All things are interrelated ... like a massive wall of gears and pinions. Some turning one way, others another way, some shafts protruding at 45 degree angles, and some vanishing into space or even time. Once one turns one direction then it is affected and affects others (all others to some extent). Some things it will affect in a negative manner, some sideways, some additive, and some barely at all. Positive actions tend to do positive things on down the line and help in many areas while negative things tend to wreak more havoc or be more isolated. That is karma. Not some moralistic determiner.

As for rebirth. ugh. OK. The dualism we find specified between mind and body is also a bit of a misnomer. It's consciousness and body. Only the body is that identity that "rebirths". The consciousness, or chariot driver from the aisha upanishad, is itself limitless despite being housed by the vessel of the body. Limitless in space and time. When unconstrained it may merely reoccupy the same body it came from, or another, or something completely different. The why behind that ascension is debatable. We DO come back like we are now and we DON'T come back like we are now and we ARE back like we are now and this will continue until the damage is fixed to the universe and it goes back to unity.

  • I dont mind negging at all. Just please tell me where you disagree. I have no ego investment in this discussion. I am still a student of life as well and can use any pointers people might provide!! I come to learn.
    – Kauvasara
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 19:25
  • Please dont place me in the middle of some tussle between different schools of Buddhism. My views are my own. My path is the one I have discovered on my own with no assistance other than my own curiosity. So I am not trying to one-up anyone else's views. This is just how I see it.
    – Kauvasara
    Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 17:31

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